Salton Sea Workshop

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Assistant Secretary for the Salton Sea Policy for the California Natural Resources Agency Bruce Wilcox discussed possible solutions for the Salton Sea Restoration

CALEXICO – In an effort to establish and develop a comprehensive, actionable management plan for habitat restoration and dust suppression at the Salton Sea, Assistant Secretary for the Salton Sea Policy for the California Natural Resources Agency Bruce Wilcox held a public workshop Thursday evening at the Carmen Durazo Cultural Arts Center.

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s Salton Sea Task Force, created in May 2015, has directed agencies to develop a comprehensive management plan for the Sea that will meet a short-term goal of 9,000 acres to 12,000 acres of habitat and dust suppression projects, and set a medium-term plan to construct 18,000 acres to 25,000 acres of habitat and dust suppression projects.

Diminishing freshwater inflows to the Salton Sea continue to expose playa that could pose a threat to human health, along with increasing salinity that threatens fish and bird habitat. For those reasons the California Natural Resources Agency is conducting a series of workshops to provide information to the public about the Salton Sea Management Program where public comments, questions and suggestions are being addressed and taken into consideration.

Via a Powerpoint presentation, attendees were given an overview of the looming dust emission problems that can potentially further deteriorating the air quality in the Valley.

Wilcox explained in detail the different approaches the Imperial Irrigation District along with various other agencies have taken to help mitigate the problem and reminded attendees that currently there is no Salton Sea restoration plan.

“In addition to the wetland projects that will be built around the Salton Sea in the next few years to mitigate the effects of the emissive dust, other approaches have been tried out including the spraying of Magnesium Chlorine and surface toughening to help prevent the particular matter getting blown out by the wind” explained Wilcox.

Wilcox highlighted several possibilities currently being studied that included a permanent smaller but sustainable lake and the construction of a perimeter berm (raised barrier separating two areas) that would cover two-thirds of the Salton Sea shore.

In his January budget, Governor Jerry Brown allocated $80.5 million for the total Salton Sea restoration, however Wilcox said the total project completion is estimated between $2 billion and $3 billion.

According to Wilcox, the governor’s Salton Sea task force is working diligently and evaluating the various long term options for the Salton Sea restorations that include imported water scenarios, water treatment scenarios, land use scenarios and air quality management. The drafted plan is expected to be available by the end of 2016.

“The governor and secretary of the state are paying attention to what we are doing, and as long as we continue to move forward we will continue to have their attention” said Wilcox.

Executive Director of Comite Civico del Valle Luis Olmedo questioned if there was a way to measure the dust-suppression projects and be evaluated for their efficiency and whether the Natural Resources Agency was focusing mainly on the development of habitat rather than human health.

Wilcox addressed Olmedo’s concerns and explained that currently there is no scoring matrix for dust suppression measuring and said “We can do better addressing the issue, public health is a paramount issue moving forward.”

Additional funding was a concern for IID Governmental Affairs Officer Antonio Ortega who questioned where additional monies would be obtained from.

“The next step is to try to get more funding from the general fund however it is tough” answered Wilcox. “Most likely the funds will come from another water bond or from the federal government.”

The next Salton Sea Management Program Public Workshop is scheduled for Thursday, June 16, from 5:30 P.M. to 7:30 P.M. that will be held at the IID Auditorium located at 1285 Broadway Avenue, El Centro. For further information please visit resources.ca.gov/salton-sea/

The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake. Thirty-five miles long and 15 miles wide, the desert lake extends from the Coachella Valley into the Imperial Valley. Though saltier than the ocean, the Sea supports an abundance of fish, a food source for millions of migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway. Managing the Sea’s natural, agricultural, and municipal water inflows to maximize bird and fish habitat and minimize fine-particle air pollution will allow California to protect regional health, ecological wealth and a stable water supply.